Another End Of The World
At three in the morning my ex-boyfriend started to beat on my front door. It had been three years since I’d seen him, and I had stopped sleeping with a baseball bat next to my bed. I lay listening to his fists slam into the door as he shouted, “I forgive you! Open the door! It’s the end of the world! You don’t want to be left behind!”
I met him while looking for the university library — I had spent hours walking up and down the campus. I approached this attractive young man who was sprawled across a grassy hill, using his backpack as a pillow as he read some intimidatingly titled book. He studied me for a second. Then he leapt to his feet and said, “I’ll take you there.” I followed him as he went down a concrete corridor. It opened on the quad, which I had walked across at least four times already. He pointed to large building that, even though it was three stories tall, I had somehow missed.
Six months later I dumped him, when he revealed that he was the messiah.
He sent me flowers, showed up at my work, leaned against my car as I walked out of the grocery store. One day, I opened my front door and discovered him on my couch watching a basketball game and drinking a beer. He was wearing white robes and sandals that were covered in blood. I stepped backward onto my front stoop. He jumped up, spilling the beer across my carpet, and dashed forward. He caught my arm.
“I’ve gotten rid of him,” he said.
Please, I thought, let that neighbor who’s always making noise complaints see and call the police; please let me escape. “Who?” I said.
“That terrible, yellow-eyed, black-haired beast.”
“Bear! You killed my dog?” My shriek surprised him, and he let go. I ran for the car.
“He wasn’t a dog,” my ex yelled running after me. “He was a demon! He was clouding your judgment!”
He grabbed me once more, and I kneed him in the groin. I got in my car and drove to a nearby 7/11. The police took my ex to a psychiatric hospital, and I buried my poor, sweet Bear in the backyard.
I stared at my ceiling as the banging continued. I had my phone in hand, but I was afraid that if I moved or made a sound he’d somehow get in.
“The tribulation is at hand,” he yelled. “The dead will rise! The four horsemen are nigh!” I held still. Eventually he left; I did not go back to sleep.
The next morning, as I drank coffee, I heard tires screech, horns honk, and people shout. I peeked through the living room blinds. People stood in their yards and on the sidewalk looking up. I stepped out the front door and looked at the sky. It was a swirling brown, like coffee with the cream yet to be fully stirred in. It seemed as though the different shades and hues were moving, but they weren’t. Or if they were it was too slow for the human eye to detect. I went back inside and checked that my windows were locked, even though I had metal bars installed over them.
Like everyone else, I watched the twenty-four hour news channels. Religious types prattled on about the end times and Judgment Day, while scientists advised us not to rush to any conclusions. In between these segments, the anchors reported that grocery store shelves had been emptied and that riots had erupted in such and such cities. I checked my pantry. I filled every pitcher, as well as my bathtub, with water. I couldn’t find my bat, so I grabbed my shovel and laid it on the floor next to the couch. I contemplated whether or not it was really Armageddon and how much it would suck if my crazy ex turned out to really be the messiah. Could you get a restraining order on the son of God? Maybe he had already taken all the faithful to heaven, and I had to suffer fire falling from the sky, rivers turning to blood, or whatever else was supposed to happen at the apocalypse. Still, I couldn’t help but think, at least in Hell, my ex wouldn’t be there.
On the third day, every bonobo and chinchilla disappeared. Well, it may have been on the first or second day when no one was really paying attention. This event caused a certain level of embarrassment for the religious leaders. Why had the rapture taken a set of primates known for its intense sexual appetite rather than their own congregation?
My panic grew. What did my ex want with those animals? Before, I could still pretend that he was just a crazy person and this was all a bizarre coincidence, but the empty zoo enclosures convinced me. It reminded me of the time he went to Walmart and bought every lunch box and box of dog biscuits in the store. He said it was for “a project.” At the time, I assumed it was for an art class.
I couldn’t watch people panic anymore. I didn’t want to think about the sky, about cities being reduced to rubble, about the rise in murder-suicides, about the possibility of my ex arriving with angels to drag me to heaven against my will. I changed the channel to TCM, which was having a marathon of Technicolor musicals. Because I was busy watching Audrey Hepburn and then Natalie Wood lip sync to Marni Nixon’s gorgeous voice, I missed when the discovery in the southern hemisphere broke on the news. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean near the Antarctic coast shone a soft yellow light from which bells could be heard. When scientists steadied their telescopes on the light’s source, they could see a cavalry of golden beings with rough humanoid shapes, and each had two or three pairs of wings. They were riding silver horses.
After watching Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, I turned back to the news and heard the scientist explain that the “angelic army” was at the edge of the solar system, in the Kuiper belt. It was moving at about seventy-five miles per hour, and, considering that we were about 2.5 billion miles away, they wouldn’t reach the Earth for another three thousand years. I kept listening to the television’s chatter until I fell asleep.
The strange orange light that was now dawn filtered through my drapes. My ex started banging on the door again. I woke up and grabbed my shovel.
“Open the door,” he shouted. “We have to go!”
“I thought you left with the chinchillas?” I stood, my shovel held ready.
“The horsemen will be here soon.”
“The TV said we have a few more millennia.”
“The dead will rise,” he yelled.
“So what?” I yelled back.
“Don’t you want to go to heaven?”
“Not if you’re there.” I waited a few moments. Then I looked through the peephole. My stoop was empty as was the concrete path the led to the sidewalk. I looked out my front window, but there was no one in my yard or on the street. I kept holding my shovel, but, as the seconds passed, I could feel in my gut that he was gone. I thought about the dead rising from their graves, and I imagined zombies, skeletons, and ghosts. Would it really be horror film bad? So far, the only problem with this apocalypse was the human panic. After a while we would get used to the sky, and people would grow tired of waiting for the angels to show up. This was just another embarrassing moment in history where we thought the world would end and it didn’t.
Still I keep thinking of dead hands bursting from the earth. It would be hard to dig out of one’s grave. Once you broke the casket open, the soil would rush down and pin your arms and legs. I looked at my shovel and rushed out to the backyard. I could not stand the idea of poor Bear whimpering as she tried to dig free.